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melon cactus

the genus Melocactus, containing about 30 species, in the family Cactaceae, native to the West Indies, Central America, and tropical South America and distinguished by a woolly and bristly mass (cephalium) topping the plant that forms when the plant reaches a certain age, varying with the species. Carmine to pink flowers push up through the cephalium, with only the tips being visible, followed by fruits, which are usually pink. The common names Turk's head or Turk's cap refer to the reddish, crownlike cephalium. Melocactus species are also called melon-cacti or melones for their size and shape. The Jamaican species M. communis is up to 100 cm (about 3 feet) tall and 30 cm (about 1 foot) wide.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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